10 Painting Principles Every Artist Should Know

Yes, many great artists urge their peers to break the rules. And, yes, letting loose and being in the moment set a solid foundation for a successful painting session. However, as one of the arguably greatest artists of all time, Pablo Picasso, used to say:

Painting Principles, Principles of Painting Gregg Kreutz | Oil Painting | ArtistsNetwork - Pablo Picasso

So before you start breaking any rules, we are here to break down 10 key painting principles. Brought to you by accomplished oil painter, Gregg Kreutz, these pointers are geared to help you boost your creative process and start painting like a pro right now–just try to finish reading all 10, first.

10 Painting Principles from Oil Painter Gregg Kreutz

1. The four stages of painting are placement, background, shadow and light.
2. To paint something convincingly, you have to determine local color, shadow color, turning color and highlight color.
3. Dynamics (high contrast, color, paint thickness, and so forth) bring passages forward (see Fish Market Dawn, below).

 

Fish Market Dawn (oil on canvas, 25x32) by Gregg Kreutz

Fish Market Dawn (oil on canvas, 25×32) by Gregg Kreutz

 

4. Paint relationships—not isolated things or people.
5. Everything is either light against dark, dark against light or same against same.
6. Paint passages in the light thickly (see Fall at the Farmer’s Market, below).

 

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Fall at the Farmer’s Market (oil on canvas, 16×20) by Gregg Kreutz

 

7. Light turns gently into shadow and emerges crisply from the shadow.
8. Every object needs a form shadow (see Up the Lane, below).

 

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Up the Lane (oil on panel, 12×14) by Gregg Kreutz

 

9. Shadows are dark versions of local color.
10. Highlights are never on the starting edge (see Golden Earring, below).

 

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Golden Earring (oil on canvas, 24×20) by Gregg Kreutz

 

Which of these painting principles are your favorites? Let us know in the comments, and be sure to share with us any painting must-dos that were not listed above.

And, don’t forget to subscribe to The Artist’s Magazine for more art insight, inspiration and instruction from expert artists, including Kreutz. You can also find past issues of the magazine here. Happy art-making, artists!

*Article contributions by Gregg Kreutz, oil painter; Michael Woodson, assistant editor for The Artist’s Magazine; and Maria Woodie, web producer for ArtistsNetwork


Rev Up Your Creativity

Need a creative pick-me-up before applying the painting principles above? Or do you just want a break from the workday? (I know I do!) Check out these fast and fun drawing exercises from Artists Network University.

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